11 January 2021

What Are You Going to Do Now?

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

 “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” 
– Nelson Mandela

With respect to photography... Nudes, Travel, and Change seem to be ongoing themes in my blog posts. Nudes and travel are what this blog are all about. However, the element of change works it's way in there like mortar between bricks. Change is what makes the Nude and Travel bricks in photography either stronger or weaker. Right now, I don't get to shoot nudes that much. The change in the travel industry has lessened my ability to travel. But it may be something different for you if you shoot wildlife or sports, for instance. Regardless of the genre, change will help you grow in your chosen field or it will make you quit it.

Change is not all bad. We dislike it because it robs us of options and choices. It takes away the comfortable and familiar and replaces it with "different". It can be inconvenient or it can be insurmountable and thus forces us to adjust or choose to do something else. Regardless, we are left with something unfamiliar to what we are accustomed to and no longer have the ease of routine and familiarity that we used to.

Twenty Twenty-One is upon us and brings with it Winds of Change more than any other year since any of us have been alive. Americans will soon have a new resident of the White House and if the recent course of events tell us anything, challenges indeed lay ahead. There is a vaccine for Covid-19 now, but travel still remains an interrupted and unpredictable affair. Therefore, the question I am asking is, what are you going to do now?

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

I'm not just asking rhetorically. I'm interested in knowing YOUR plans. Maybe you can impart some wisdom to me. As for me? Umm... well, I wanna continue to remain in Vietnam and work on some personal development. Taking lots of pics goes without saying. I still need to find my epic shot here. But yeah, hopefully I can get some stability. I'd like to remain for another two years and really search this place out in more depth both photographically and understanding the culture. If I get residency, I'll take some classes to learn Vietnamese. 

How do you carry on with your photographic career? Will you find something else to do for a while? Has this pandemic affected your ability to shoot, (whether you earn a living at it or not)? I know I have lots to figure out. Photo sales for me have been non-existent for a year almost. I read a recent blog post of another travel blogger whose entire income is derived from booking his guided travel tours. There are none for him right now. So what happens if the travel industry doesn't pick up this year? I wonder. He's not the only one in this predicament. How does the industry shift to something more survivable? Or hold out until it is better? 

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

It's my hope that none of us put down the camera. I pray we keep shooting. Make money at it or not, I don't think we can afford to forget the pure joy of photography. Maybe we are not selling or printing much. Maybe we aren't getting the gigs. But I think there are still things to do. I got a cousin who's on a rampage right now in Texas as she's BUILDING and becoming stronger in her photo game. That tells me there are still opportunities. But don't go flooding Texas. Be worth your salt and find those opportunities where you are. Money or no. 

Now is definitely a good time to advance your skills. Take online courses. Improve your lighting ability. If there is ONE area of photography that I KNOW people consistently neglect, it is LIGHTING! Don't give me that natural light shooter BS. I've been around long enough to know most people fear flash or think it's too complicated and expensive. EVEN if that were the case, I've still seen people misuse natural lighting. Sometimes they don't take advantage of using it at the right time or they don't know how to block or bounce light with flags or reflectors. Natural light shooters should know a little something about light direction, intensity, and color. Is the light hard or soft? How can you use shadows? Are the highlights too strong? See, it's more than just cameras and lenses and shooting while the sun is up.

There's lots to learn for everyone. I still feel so dumb about a lot of things. I hope 2021 brings a new hope for all of us. 

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley


20 December 2020

On the Passion for Travel and the Changing World

 

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

My mother recently sent me something regarding a pilgrimage letter by a woman named Egeria. It's about her insatiable desire to make a religious trek to Israel and document her experience for people she left at home. The author used her venture as the premise of his article which focused on people's need... no, passion to go out and see the world, to know unknown places, and journey beyond familiar horizons. 

Of course, my mother thought of me when she came across this in some of her Bible studies. Most people associate travel with a vacation. For Egeria, this is a way of life and a means to an end. Travel, in and of itself, is not the main goal. Her desire was not the journey... at least not as I interpret it. The goal was Israel. The means was the pilgrimage. Ergo, travel is the means to accomplish her objective.

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Sometimes it is solely about the destination. I've often said, the only thing that sucks about travel is the actual travel. In so many cases this is true. Unless you have posh means to do so, that will be the reality of the majority who don't. The experiences WHILE you travel are the moments that make the reality of travel worthwhile. The culmination of the destination and the experiences enroute will dictate whether you chose to endure the travel again. 

This time last year, I had returned to the US after two months in Argentina and a few weeks in Peru. I can tell you that flying through four countries and having to check in AND out of immigration and customs at each country sucked! Waiting in the long cattle lines to check in for your flight or get your visa stamped blows! The constant aggravation of wondering if you'll make your next flight and knowing there is a real and valid possibility you won't can be daunting. 

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Or, how about taking a 14-hour shuttle that is filled beyond the seating capacity. Yes, this is the case. I've watched a woman trying to maintain some dignity while sitting in the lap of a man she had never met before. Six hours in, you would have thought they were a married couple as she slept in his arms.

No, it's not always like that. I've had some pleasant experiences as well, and its usually because I had good company that made it all bearable. Although rare, there have been some circumstances where my means of travel was notably and memorably pleasant for one reason or another. I do not count on those situations being a regular occurrence.

I like to call this one, "The Schwarzenegger"
Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Nonetheless, it is the passion for travel that makes us endure any of the hardships. Otherwise, I would have come home a long time ago instead of nearing 3 years on the road. Like Egeria, I try to document my experiences and write about the people I meet, cultures I learn about, and the myriad of unique places I visit and explore. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but let me be frank with you. A thousand words will never let you understand the uncertainty of sitting on cargo on the back of a commercial fishing boat in the middle of an unexpected storm at sea because its the only thing going out to the island you need to get to. An album of photos will not help you track the line of choices that led you to say yes to a group of Nicaraguan bikers when they ask you to go on an adventure with them 10 minutes after you meet them. And nothing the world has to offer will help you understand the feeling of abject loneliness that makes you question your decision to stay in a foreign country during a global pandemic. 

You must travel on your own and have your own experiences. Yours will be unique from mine. I have almost died on occasion... occasionS would be more accurate. But this is no more different than the same things that happens around you every day already. People  have traffic accidents, get robbed, and for one reason or another, people die every day. The world is changing. People are working and being educated remotely. The covers are being pulled back on a different way of life. New opportunities are afforded to more people to move beyond the traditional, the ordinary, and societal norms. How will you adjust, in order to, not just compete, but thrive? Will you continue to make buggy whips and then complain about losing your job?

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I made a photobook once, called "Where I Have Been". I made it exclusively for my mother, because I know she will not ever get to see the top of a mountain. Therefore, I wanted her to see from the eyes of her own blood the world from a high above overlooking the magnitude of an immense valley. She does not see well. I will not get her to climb a mountain with me. However, now she can have a perspective of the world from eyes that she gave birth to. 

My point is that I know everybody can't do this. But there are many of you who have great eyes AND knees! You have your youthfulness, vigor, health, or whatever. Anthony Bourdain suggested to sleep on the floor if you have to, but find a way to travel! I'm not exceptional, but I know every one can't be like me. I made the choice to dump everything and be gone in pretty much a single day around the beginning of November of 2017. By January 7th, I was flying. That's drastic for a lot of people. I get that. That's just who I am. 

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

And I'm not even suggesting you travel right now! Or even outside the US, for that matter. What I am saying is that with the changing world, you can begin preparations NOW! You can make changes and learn the habits that will allow for a different lifestyle. If you do have a passion for travel, I can't think of a better time in your life than right now to begin. If you want my advice, don't worry about the money. Worry about getting rid of DEBT!! If you did want to travel right this very second, then yeah... it's possible. Many countries are opening up again, even for US citizens. It's a pain... but then again, I just told you that's the nature of travel. 

The world is changing. What changes are you willing to make?

16 November 2020

When an Art Model Dies: See Ya, Jessica...

 


“Remember that people are only guests in your story – the same way you are only a guest in theirs – so make the chapters worth reading.” 

― Lauren Klarfeld

I wasn't sure how or even if I wanted to write this post. But as one model friend of mine oft says, "Challenge Accepted." Over the last few years, specifically since 2017, I've had to deal with loss. I'm tired of it. I thank God that I'm not used to it. Death was never close to me until I was almost 30. People live long in my family. So you can imagine my shock when I lost my younger brother just two years ago. I still reel from that. Everything takes me back to his memory today. I have to turn away when watching something or reading a report about somebody losing a sibling. 

And there are friends that die. Some of these people are like family. They are not blood. And sometimes you don't even realize the magnitude of the loss right away. When my friend Jerry passed away 3 years ago, I went through a myriad of emotions from disbelief, anger, and grief. That incident, was one of the compelling factors that made me decide to take a road trip. The breakup with my girlfriend was another catalyst. Watching her drive away broke a little bit of something in me with the reality settling in that we were done as a couple. 

I've felt significant loss from people I have never known. On the evening of October 1st, 2017, a man decided to open fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, where I lived. He killed 60 people and wounded more than four or five hundred... I forget. But I don't forget crying practically all friggin' day on Oct 2nd when I woke up that morning to the news. I cried for people I had never known or met. Jerry's death, the decision to breakup, and this shooting all happened the same month. Yep. It was time for me to take a break. I never intended to be gone this long. My initial goal was to finish a trip my girlfriend and I started, touring Central America... I was going to surprise her to go into South America, too. Instead, I'd endeavor to do it alone.


I expected to be gone a year. I just wanted to see what that felt like. I had run across other travelers who had been gone for a year. But a year turned into 18 months. Then it became a 3-year plan to continue around the world. Then somebody told me it was impossible to go around the world in 3 years. I said, you're right. Better make it 5 years. Two years after that, I said my 5-year plan technically begins here in Vietnam. Now I've been here for 9 months amid a global pandemic and feel like the clock has stopped. I should just say, I'll come back when I come back.

“The sorrow we feel when we lose a loved one is the price we pay to have had them in our lives.” 

― Rob Liano

And then there is the loss of a model. This one is new to me. Everything is different and it's a relationship that the majority of people will never get to appreciate, much less experience. I photograph nude women for my art. I don't just click and shoot glamour. I don't do this like some sort of impersonal assembly line of models. This is my art. Successful shoots for me require a certain synergy and almost like an exchange of pieces of souls. I give a little bit and I am given a little bit. It's a collaboration. 

Because they are naked, I know these women quite intimately and a different sort of relationship is defined. It's not necessarily a passionate relationship, but we both pour out our passion and intimacy into the art. I can tell you that I have known certain things about my models that their boyfriend or husbands may not have ever guessed because I have to pay attention and I try to listen. I am not always successful in this. I am a man. I am prone to fail in this regard, but it's a skill I try to hone. 

Sometimes there is an insecurity not revealed to anyone else but an art photographer. Secrets get exposed when all layers down to the skin are abandoned. There is a trust bond that is formed like the hardening of concrete. It is mixed and then poured out. With a little time, it hardens and becomes resilient and ever enduring. From that point on, we're written in stone. 


I haven't seen Jessica in years. She moved away with her daughter six or seven years ago. She was a wild and crazy soul... the type to drive topless in a convertible. She was unpredictable. I never knew what I was going to get from her, but that's how you learn to love her. You expect, and thereby appreciate the unexpected like a box of chocolates. Such a stunning woman. She walked into the camera store where I worked once wearing hardly anything and you'd have thought somebody had stopped time for all the patrons in the store. Thirty seconds before she walked in, the place was packed and the staff was overwhelmed. EVERYthing calmed down when her foot crossed that threshold. There was peace in the valley and nobody minded waiting for service at all. People were suddenly polite to one another, offering to let someone else in front of them in line to check-out. 

She had that affect on people. A captivating smile and legs like a staircase. Whatever you were busy with became less important than the desire to know her story. She wasn't perfect. She could be a pain, too. But like I said... you expect the unexpected, so the pain never lasted or cut too deep. It was always superficial. It took a little bit to learn to say "no" to her. I could not get away with the same things she could. And I don't play where safety is concerned. I've had to JUST SAY NO to many models when I felt doing something compromised safety. I had to be on my toes with Jessica. 

However, even with the span of time of not seeing her, learning of her loss still hit hard. It was... I mean... damn. I hadn't seen her in years, but we still talked. Oddly enough we had just talked two or 3 times right before she reportedly died. It's like one second a person is right there and then they vanish before your eyes. My brother was right there and suddenly he wasn't. It catches you unawares. The art nude model-photographer relationship is just different. Nothing about it seems remotely believable. It doesn't subscribe to societal norms. Jessica was that big bright star burning hottest. But these stars are always gone too soon. I am grateful to her. Thank you, Jessica. And to her sister, I am grateful to you for the news. God keep you, bless you, and may He always favor that little girl.


23 October 2020

Nude vs. Naked

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley 

"Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress."
~ John Berger

I got a chance to talk about my nude art work a few months ago in a pizza shop. The conversation with a couple and their female friend got fairly in-depth as we talked about my art. This picture usually develops often in my travels when I mention I do artistic nudes. And in this case, like several others, it's the women that usually drive the discourse. First, they want to see the pics. I take them to my website (PhotoAnthems.com) or show them some of my latest work on my phone. After that, the questions, discussion, or debate commences. 

The absolute most common question I get is... 'Why do they have to be naked?" This comes from a more conservative circle who don't understand why I do this. I get that. My art is not for everybody and I'm not trying to persuade anybody into my court on this. And therefore the answer I give to this question is, THEY DON'T. They do not HAVE to be naked. They are nude because I CHOOSE to photograph them this way.

Other times there is instant appreciation and the discussion turns to inquiry. How do I find models? What do I look for in a nude model? Who are my inspirations... both model and other photographers? How did I get started? The girlfriend wanted to know what kind of nudes I enjoy (other than my own). I initially thought they were trying to get me to talk about porn. But that wasn't the case as they explained to me that my style was different from what they were familiar with, however, surely every artist must also appreciate different styles and and hate others.

The friend of the couple pointed out that she liked how I used "real" women who look like somebody you might see shopping in a store or standing next to you in the elevator. She felt it was cool that somebody could find beauty in people like herself and not just "Hollywood" women, as she called them. The conversation also brought to mind the debates, in which I sometimes engage, on the distinction between a photograph of a nude woman vs a pic of a naked chick. I'll scroll past the latter all day. 

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

So what is the difference between art nude photography and a photo of a naked person? That's a simple, yet complex question. On the face of it, nakedness simply implies a condition of being without clothes or something that covers your modesty. Yes, there are other functions of clothing, but let's stick to the point. Any image depicting nakedness can be claimed to be art or artistic by the creator or subsequently by anyone who views it. I used my cell phone to take photos of a girlfriend while she showered or sometimes when she exercised outside on the back patio. Is it art? I can be, if I say it is. And subsequently so, it is if I display it in an artistic environment with other similar depictions and call it, "Life of the Domestic Nude". Therefore, weight is given to the creator, the viewer, the context, and the environment in which the photo is displayed as to determinant factors to answer the question of artistic value and merit. 

Conversely, if I take the same shot with a camera that allows me to slow down the shutter speed, I can blur the cascading water and maybe her hands as they pass over her face and through her hair. I could shoot with a wide-angle lens and capture more of the surrounding bathroom for the environmental portrait aspect and shoot upward from a low angle. I might narrow the aperture down to reduce the light which illuminates her backside more than her front as she faces the shower head... and intentionally underexpose it. This creates a vignette on the backside of the composition whereas the front side is already in shadow. Maybe I'll shoot at a higher ISO to introduce grain and edit the shot in Black and White. 

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

At this point, I've employed fundamental principles of photography, introducing motion, perspective, balance, light and shadow variance, depth of field, grain, and use of monochromatic techniques. I'd bet if you saw the shot, you could see geometric shapes in the composition. If I never used the photo in an art gallery or if I never even called it art, it would still likely be widely accepted as an artistic composition on it's own merit. Why? Because I used artistic tools to consciously create something. You don't have to be called an artist to create art. Art is an expression. A person who creates something that is an outward manifestation of their expression, views, or emotion has created art. If you do it repeatedly, your an artist whether you get paid for it or not. If you get paid, then you're a professional artist. 

I don't often put a name to my style of nudes, but what the girls were used to seeing was glamour nudes. What they saw in my art didn't reflect much of that. I'm glad for it. I hardly ever need a make-up artist or a hair stylist. I like my nudes as raw as they come. I shoot the nude in whole or in macro parts, but I shoot all of her. Nudity restrictions hamper my creative abilities. I usually find my models by asking or they get referred to me. It is not often that I get someone who sees my work first and then contacts me, although it does happen. Over they years, especially in the US, word of mouth is what garnered the majority of my model finds. 

"There are few nudities so objectionable as the naked truth." 
~ Agnes Repplier

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

Shape, hair, eyes, are usually the first things that get my attention, in that order. However attitude is the prevailing factor. I say it all the time. I shoot as much as what's inside the model as I do the outside. If the attitude is not a fit, then I can't do it. That's not to say she or he has a poor attitude, just that for whatever reason, their hearts are just not in it. 

Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, Diane Arbus, Jerry Ulesmann, Sally Mann, Spencer Tunick... these were my initial inspirations. My photography professor, Michael Johnson first encouraged me to try nude photography. Dave Rudin was huge for me when I was still fresh and had finally switched to digital. He shoots film however and was already an established art nude photographer in New York. He contacted me offering encouragement and insight. He attended one of my art nude workshops and I got to see him often on his trips to Las Vegas. I get inspired by practically every model I work with. There's always something that is unique which they bring to the table. 

I love working with the muses who I shoot often and they let me play, experiment, and have the patience to stick with me when I do crappy work. There have been some I only worked with once and it was just as impactful. I can say I've shot hundreds of models. It seems like at damn near every point in my life, since I began shooting nudes, there has been someone there to help me. Since I first began, I once went a whole year without shooting a single nude. In 15 years, that's only happened once and I pray it never happens again. Top 3 models I've shot the most... 
Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

I don't need for other art nude work to be like mine for me to enjoy them, but I don't particularly like implied nudes, nor nudes that trend conservative. It's so subjective. My favorite nude/photograph of all time is Dave Rudin's art piece of Carlotta Champagne. In fact... I think I will do a blog post on that one photo at some point. But it's an easily conservative piece that is nonetheless the best photo I've seen. I'm not particularly a fan of sexualized nudes. And there is a difference between that and erotica. Your idea of what sexualized is may be different from mine. Mine even has degrees to it. Maybe I'll talk on that at some point, too. Can sex be art? Sure. But more on that later. Everybody has their range on the art nude spectrum. I can only explain mine... ambiguously, so.

I've been happy to work with 4 women here in Vietnam. Art Model, Alisia was someone who was referred to me and we put together our collaboration soon after. It was a long photo shoot! I was ecstatic that she had that kind of patience for a first shoot. We discussed the possible concepts and then just got to work. I let her move, pose, and tried to provide as little direction as possible. I wanted to take what was given and see what resulted. That has been my approach most times, but if the model has difficulty and needs help on how to move, I can step in and direct. I placed Alisia where I needed and just let her go for it. My job was to capture her performance with the right light, perspective, and angles. We did that and I think we created some fine art. I am very appreciative of her. I thank her for helping me celebrate the female form with this art.

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley



05 October 2020

1000 Days of Adventure and Stories

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

 "Still around the corner, there may wait a new road or a secret gate."

~ John Ronald Reuel  Tolkien

This past month, I hit a benchmark that I wasn't even aware of until I was downloading some files from my online backup. It told me that my desktop computer (in storage in Las Vegas) had been out sync from continuous backup for 1004 days, which is the time I unplugged it, packed it, and locked it up on December 21st, 2017. It has been that long since I've had a home where I have all my stuff and lay my head down every night. Since then, it's been hotels, hostels, and apartment rentals... the longest stay in one place being close to 6 months in Xela, Guatemala

I know some people thought I'd be back after only a few months. Two and a half years later, I'm still rollin' and no where near finished. Delayed! Halted! Holed up! But not finished. A global pandemic and the current reduced status of the US passport has me unable to move around as freely as I might desire. The Global Passport and Power Index has the US ranked tied for 23rd, but there are 53 countries ahead of us. Bosnia/Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, and even Ukraine are ahead of us. Japan and New Zealand tie for the strongest passport in the world for 2020.  

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Less countries are admitting US citizens and even here in Vietnam, people still ask me when I got here before they let their guard down with me. I have to make sure they know I was here PRE-Pandemic! This should be obvious, because the borders have been closed and no new tourist visas have been granted since March. But given the recent smuggling incident where some Chinese immigrants snuck in some illegal Chinese citizens and then coincidentally we got a second wave... I guess I can understand.

So how did all this start for me? Well, I've already told you about people who have been influential in my life regarding international travel... The Army showed me new lands and new people. An ex-girlfriend showed me it's not as expensive as I thought to go someplace. My friend Heather convinced me to go with her to Central America and that started me to traveling the way I do now. But there have also been a number of other factors while I was growing up that also heavily influenced my wanderlust. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I think I've always been an explorer by nature. Where I grew up in Texas, there are woods behind my house. I used to venture into those woods with my little brother, Greg just to see where they led and what was within them. We didn't have Google Maps back then. I was always interested in what was around the corner, over the bend, and beyond the horizon. 

I also read books. Who doesn't remember "Where the Wild Things Are"? It's a story about adventure! And I read countless adventure books like this. None was more influential to me than J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and Bilbo's adventure with Gandalf and the Dwarfs. I actually saw the 1977 animated version in the 4th grade during an assembly. All of my 4th grade class saw it. I was mesmerized the whole time. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

It was only later on, while I was in high school that I accidentally came across The Lord of the Rings series. Discovering, after all this time, that there was a continuation! Crazy! 

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” - J.R.R. Tolkien "The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring"

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I think that one quote stuck with me best. Along with, "Not all those who wander are lost..." which is part of a poem in The Fellowship of the Ring. Then a year AFTER high school, I learn that there is yet another continuation... or rather a preceding book to the series called, "The Silmarillion". I listened to that one on audio CD's when I found it at a bookstore. I had to have it! I actually first looked at the box and thought, "They are just copying LOTRs!

But all throughout my childhood and adult life, I've had stories of adventure surround me or I was on them myself in the Army. How could I keep still? I had to seek out the horizon. Initially, that was moving out west into the unknown deserts surrounding Las Vegas. That sufficed for a while. But adventure called again and I headed off to Central America 3 or 4 times. Sometimes solo... sometimes with company

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

But there was one nagging feeling that gnawed at a spot in the back of my brain since the first time I met someone on my first trip to Guatemala. They had been traveling for a 13 months by the time I met them. I thought I was big-timing it being gone 6 weeks. It pestered me! What is that like to be traveling for years at a time? That was back in 2012. It took me until 2019 to actually find out after crossing my first year of travel. Three more months and I'll be on year THREE! And I feel like I'm just getting started. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Thanks again, Jenny for coming out to meet me in Peru, despite NEVER having met before! That was a FABULOUS THREE WEEKS! Good times, tough times... we made it through blistering heat on the beach and freezing cold nights on the lake. Those are the things that makes the story.


28 September 2020

Don't Be Afraid (REPOST FROM 2016)

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." 
~ Nelson Mandela

Don't be afraid.

You know I can honestly leave this post at just those 3 words, but anybody who knows me, knows I am never that succinct. I like to use my words, so let me articulate my meaning here. Elocution would serve better, but since I have not as of yet published my work via podcasts, the written word will suffice. As a former Staff Sergeant in the Army, my voice can deliver the intended affect with inflection and tone that deliver my meaning more accurately, but I will try to get my point across, nonetheless. Maybe one day I'll do a speech on the matter. For now...the written word.

Art Model, Samantha ©2011 Terrell Neasley

We all fear. Its inevitable that something will arise that will cause fear at some point in our lives. However, as you may already know, its how we respond to the fear that makes the difference. As a kid, I used to get my ass kicked just about daily, until I decided to make some changes. Since I was already taking a beating, how would striking back and defending myself make matters worse? So I learned to hit back...hard. Interestingly enough, the beatings stopped. Correlation? You tell me.

Today, I live differently. I don't have to fight like that so much. There are other things in life that make me afraid, but those early years, along with some military refining has helped me control fears better, (but not eliminate them, however). Now, I almost have fun with it. Fear lets me take on life challenges that can be rewarding times ten more when you overcome them. I tend to run towards things I fear, which may not be wise at times, but I'm not altogether stupid either.

Art Model, Leslie  Copyright 2016 Terrell Neasley


Don't be afraid of the opinion of others. This is especially so, concerning those who should have little influence on your well-being, income, or health.

Don't be afraid of being the only one. It can be lonely to go it alone but you will find out more about yourself, your capabilities, and thereby boosting your confidence. Not everyone has your vision or wants to do what you want to do. That doesn't mean you have to flow with the status quo. Do you.

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. It's where all the fruit is." 
~Shirley MacLaine


Don't be afraid to lose things, people, or money. It's bound to happen and you'll have to accept that fact. Its supposed to be that way when you think about it. People will come and go, but that's not always a bad thing. Things are temporary and you'll always be getting more stuff.

Don't be afraid to try new things. This is how you learn and experience the world.

Art Model, Anne ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to fail. I've heard is said, "Failure is not the opposite of Success. It is PART of it." You'll make mistakes. Get up and learn from it.

Don't be afraid of the unknown. You don't know everything. In fact, you know very little. Hence, most of the universe is unknown to you. Think about how much you didn't know 5 years ago. The things you know today were unknown to you then. You don't always need to play it safe. Be smart. Get outside the lines a little bit. You'll thank me.

Don't be afraid to start that adventure. JUST GO! Old people don't brag about how many overtime hours they clocked. Or how many consecutive years they were able to stay under budget at Corporation XYZ.  That shit doesn't make for good stories.

Art Model Chloe Ann Copyright 2017 Terrell Neasley


"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose."
~ Langston Hughes

Don't be afraid to be hated. Not everyone will like you, especially when you start getting good and succeeding. That's just a fact. It means you're likely enjoying yourself. Don't sabotage your own happiness worrying about somebody hating on you. Katt Williams says the more haters you have the happier you likely are.

Don't be afraid of bad circumstances. It happens. It's going to happen again. How you respond to bad circumstances is what makes the bad circumstances permanent or not. And if they are not permanent...why worry?

Don't be afraid to trust yourself. In all actuality, you can't trust yourself, but you should. You're going to fail. You're going to let yourself down. However all that matters is the fact that you still control you. You 100% can't control anyone else. You CAN control you. So that makes you the most trustworthy person alive. Having some self control issues? Well, stop that shit.

Art Model, Melissa ©2009 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to keep learning...from anybody. I have learned so much from people 80 years old as well as from an 18 year old. I can't say what I might learn from an 8 year old, but I'm sure its possible, somehow. You won't know it all. Ever. So keep soaking up information and tidbits of wisdom where you find it. Keep your mind open because you'll likely come across it in some of the most unlikely places. Age, social status, economic class, race... if you limit where you can accept learning because of these dividing lines, you limit the potential you can evolve to. Cut that shit out.

Now go handle your business.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

12 September 2020

TEN Reasons Solo Travel Sucks

 

Athena and I after trying the poop coffee in Peru, near Cusco.

"One day you will wake up and there will be no more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now."

~ Paulo Coelho

Yes, of course I talked about the reasons why SOLO travel is a MUST-DO in my last blog post. Well, there are two sides to every coin and story. The idea is that, like many things in life, you have to take the good with the bad and keep things in perspective. It's not always about a brighter side or sunny days. There is magic in the storms as well. Solo travel is indeed a must-do, but when you do it, keep these ten things in mind, too:

My friends, Osmany, Jader and his son. We traveled around Esteli and Somoto in Nicaragua. I got some of my best shots of Nica with them. And a new nickname... Mecha Corta or Short Fuse from my first experience with Nicaraguan police who wanted my camera. Not happening. 

1. You have to do EVERYTHING yourself

There are definitely advantages to doing it yourself, but after a while, it gets old. When you are doing extended travel, like I am, it's easy to get frustrated when you have to find the next hotel to book, select your route to the next destination, or even just figure out where to eat. Sometimes you just want to look over to your imaginary friend and say, "You take this one."

2. We all need somebody to lean on sometimes

This is no joke... and it's inevitable. You can bet your bananas there will come a time when the best thing for you is human companionship, camaraderie, and contact. You will be the lesser for the lack of it, but that doesn't mean you can't overcome what ails you. You might sink into a state of depression, for whatever reason or maybe you are just homesick. Nothing goes as planned all the time and that doesn't change when you are traveling. Why should it? How perfect is your life at home? Why would you expect it to be any different on the road. You just deal with it. But shouldering the burden by yourself can really suck.


Cascades Siete jungle tour, El Salvador. I traveled with Tracie through 5 countries in Central America for 3 months. 20 minutes after this shot is when I had my thumb incident.


3. Second Pair of Eyes

All your stuff has to come into the bathroom with you! Okay, you got that one solved. But what happens when you go to the beach. You can't bring all your stuff with you in the water! And as a photographer, it's good to have someone watching your back while you get those late evening shots or those urban scenes. You never know who else has eyes on YOU! Besides that, I guarantee you that you'll try to follow directions looking for street numbers or landmarks. Having a second pair of eyes to help find the right corner where your bus lets you off might be the crucial element between you getting to your hostel or winding up across town. 

4. Who takes great pics of YOU? (Particularly when you're doing something stupid.)

Self-explanatory. Get used to those handheld selfies!


The Black Souls of Esteli, Nicaragua asked if I wanted to take a ride. I couldn't see a reason not to run off with a biker group I just met.

5. When you absolutely MUST get up in the morning

You know there are those moments when you cannot depend on yourself to get up early in the morning. You need that other person to say, "Hey! We got a plane to catch. Get your ass up!"

6. You can read only so many books

I'd call myself an avid reader

. When you travel long term like I do, books go only so far. There will be some boring ass days when all you have on your to-do list is... NOT A DAMN THING! Well, I guess you could right that book. HA! Right...

"Some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost.'

~ Erol Ozan


Art Model Kristi and I catching a ride on a fishing boat to Little Corn Island during bad weather. A 30-minute fast boat trip turned into 3 hours on this sea crawler!

7. When you REALLY need that 2nd opinion

Can't tell you how many times I've been in this situation. You don't know what you're missing, not seeing, or forgetting about the directions on where you are supposed to go, which bus to take, or what that sign says. Having that second person to overlap your gaps keeps you from looking stupid or making big mistakes.

8. Going to a nice restaurant by yourself? PASS!

Table for 1? I don't think so. I'm not doing it. I'll get something to go, but I'm not eating at a fine dining spot by myself. You just look stupid and desperate. But that could just be my own insecurities. I get that, and will own it. 

9. Unwanted advances

Ladies...? You know what I'm talking about right? Just because you're single and solo, doesn't mean you are available to every bolo that comes a-callin'. I've been hit on by other men, as well. I'm not sure what signals I'm giving off, but I need to figure it out. I actually got physically assaulted by a dude who's advances I rebuffed. He got dealt with. I emerged from that incident with all my teeth and consciousness. He did not. Watch yourself. 

Lake Titicaca. Jenny and I traveled together for 3 weeks in Peru from the northern edge to the southern border.

10. Sharing those special moments and memories.

I have some travel buddies and it's always a beautiful thing to reminisce about that time spent together enjoying a travel moment. I have many fond memories having been with a significant other as well as someone platonic. Having someone with you, even as a witness, who recounts the same cherished experience is a blessing.

11. Bonus! Having to laugh BY yourself!

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. You hear something funny on TV, Facebook, or Netflix and the only one available to laugh with you is the person in the mirror. The cool thing is that they will laugh back if they are all you have. 

Oh... and I have no idea where "bet your bananas" came from. I just... I'm sorry. 

My baby brother and I on a road trip traveling to Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. 



01 September 2020

TEN Reasons Solo Travel Is a Must-Do at Some Point in Your Life

 "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Heather

Traveling of any kind is not the easiest thing to do right now, especially if you are from the US. That being said, we can still at least talk about travel, right? Traveling through Central America, South America, and now Southeast Asia has been a definite highlight of my life. Fear has gripped me at times, but I have a tendency to want to do the things I fear. I grew up afraid a lot and had to learn to master many different aspects of fearful things in my life. I got bullied. My cousin taught me to fight back. 

To do that, he taught me getting hit in the face wasn't the worst thing in the world. Then I began to stand my ground and give hits as well as I took them. That moment was the beginning of my observation of the fear in myself and my desire to not let it conquer me. Vietnam scared me. That's even the title of a blog post. Now I'm here in Vietnam and don't want to leave. These are my 10 reasons solo travel is a must-do for you at some point in your life. By the way, all the women in these portraits are world travelers doing their own thing, whom I've met along the way. The first one, Heather, is a dear friend who is likely the biggest influence on my travel habits today. 

1. CHEAPER!

If it's just you, you can eat someplace cheap or skip meals. If it's you and a buddy, partner, or spouse, you will likely feel obligated to eat somewhere where you both can agree and you're more likely to eat someplace that is more upscale than had you been by yourself. I can skip breakfast, (usually because I sleep in and miss it.) and I do not feel some sense of obligation to get breakfast so the other person doesn't eat alone. This isn't with just food. You are more likely to take cheaper transportation if you are by yourself. You can get a smaller, thus cheaper room. Now you can save your money for the things that really matter, like experiences, tours, etc.

Shahla

2. Time is on Your Side

You can set your own clock now and chose to delay or ignore it entirely. When you want to move, go somewhere, or do anything, you can wait or do it earlier and not have to worry about breaking an agreed upon timetable with someone else. I did a 6-hour cave tour once. I can tell you for fact, I would never have been able to say that had I waited for all the people who told me they would gladly do it with me. Instead, I jumped in my car, drove the two and a half hours to Mammoth Caves, signed up with a tour group, and just did it. 

Yuval

3. Freedom to Chart Your Own Course

Trying to decide on where to go? Now you can make that trip that you've always wanted when nobody else wanted to. You are the decision maker of your own course. Try it!

4. Freedom to Change Your Mind

At your leisure, you can choose to stay at one spot longer than intended or leave early. You can cancel a certain part of a trip or add onto your itinerary as you like. It's up to you. 

Felicia

5. The Things You Learn About Yourself

Not everything is going to go as planned. Things happen. You will learn much more self-reliance and self-confidence that will benefit you in so many other ways in life. You will absolutely be able to check the block on Personal Growth. I'm here on my own in Vietnam during a GLOBAL pandemic. I can tell you it has not been the easiest choice to make to stay and not run home. And I am so glad I chose to stay.

“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends” 

~ Shirley MacLaine

Hyun

6. Meeting New People 

Lots of people you meet on the road while traveling will chose not to engage you if you are already with someone else, mostly locals. If you are alone, I think you are much more approachable and they will be more apt to help you with food selections, directions, reading menus, etc. Next thing you know, you're having beers together, playing pool, or going on trips. Now you have a local guide!

7. New Experiences Will Build You Up

Right in line with learning about yourself and meeting new people, you will encounter these new experiences that will become the stories of your life. This is what living is all about. It is a process of learning and these are experiences that you bring back home will encourage others to follow your path. 

Egle

8. Facing Challenges When Plans Fall Apart

Not all these experiences have positive outcomes, but you learn how to deal with them and overcome them. And these are character building exercises that help you grow as a person. Becoming a traveler helps you grow as a person and a human being. But that only works if you learn to take each negative experience and learn from them. That's just life. But here's the real gem. Sometimes when things don't go according to plan, it's a good thing. They will often go better than you could ever have imagined.

Abi

9. Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

This is the greatest thing you can do for yourself. It is impossible to grow as a person unless you remove yourself from your own fishbowl. Swim in new waters. See how other cultures have lived their lives and learn what you can from them. 

10. More Thorough Reflection of It All

Solo travel is a special thing. And when you look back through it all, you see how tough, smart, and resourceful you really are. It may inspire you to write a book or a blog post, but you will inevitably contemplate why you hadn't done it sooner AND why everyone doesn't do solo travel from time to time. 

“Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” 

~ Barbara De Angelis

I am no where near done and, God willing, I'll continue this adventure for several more years. As I look back on the 32 months I've been traveling like this, I see all the faces of the people whom I've met that have helped me, took care of me, and entertained me along the way. I have learned so much in this time and I want to experience so much more. There is a whole lot of unseen world yet for me to explore and I can't wait. Well, I am willing to wait here in Vietnam for a while and let the world settled back down a little. I figure another year here will suffice... hopefully. 

Be sure to catch me next time when I tell you about why Solo Travel sucks. 

Sarah